Venom is an unusual superhero film in that it’s more of an anti-hero story. Other than the below-the-radar Punisher movies, we haven’t really gotten one this mainstream from Marvel. Venom really does have a different feel. The humor isn’t cutesy, filled with in-jokes for fanboys. Nor does the main character go through some contrived internal struggle filled with angsty self-reflection. He loses his job and his fiancee leaves him–those are about the biggest things he’s faced in his life.
That main character is Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), an investigative news reporter living in San Francisco. He’s engaged to lawyer Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), and one day he snoops through her emails to dig up some dirt on billionaire, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), who he’s been assigned to do a profile on. Drake has this idea that, in order to save the human species, we must combine our DNA with parasitical extraterrestrials. To test this theory, he rounds up homeless people off the street and conducts experiments on them–resulting in them all dying.
After Eddie confronts him on these unethical experiments, Drake makes sure that he and Anne are both fired. Down on his luck, Eddie sneaks into Drake’s labs one night and ends up with one of these alien parasites inside of him. The parasite is known as Venom, and we soon realize that he can communicate with Eddie, even taking over his body to act for him. Since Venom and his race are set on taking over Earth, Eddie is now just along for the ride as people try to stop him/them.
Venom goes away from the typical streamlined formula that has taken over blockbuster films these days. Because of its odd premise, nothing is ever quite predictable. The film also goes easy on the action–and that’s a good thing. We don’t get some drawn-out final battle. Instead, there’s one that lasts for just a couple of minutes and that’s it. And the fight and chase scenes earlier on are very to-the-point–even if the mechanics of them are a little cliche.
Director Ruben Fleischer understands the subtle symbolism contained within the script. But he also lets other details fly under the radar, such as certain tidiness with the editing. He does, however, find a great balance between creepy and fun. The film has a certain sense of cohesiveness that keeps everything clean and tight, even when early on we think it may not go that way.
What Fleischer accomplished with the actual character of Venom is impressive. Often times it’s easy to let a character of this nature–mostly not scene–merely ride the coattails of its costar, but Venom has so much personality on his own.
Don’t get it twisted though, Hardy really is the star of the film. Every other hero in these Marvel movies just acts like a certain version of him or herself. But Hardy creates this entirely new character–much like what Johnny Depp is known to do. Eddie Brock is this unpredictable, yet shy guy, who often reminds us of Bobcat Goldthwait’s lesser known brother. He brings a lot of heart and humor to the role. No joke feels stale. Jokes made in action films can be jarring or out of place, but the character that Hardy creates allows these lines to be realistic within the confines he’s created.
Venom may not exactly be your speed, but I’m not really sure why though. It’s everything we need in a comic book movie right now, breaking away from standard formula and taking ideas in a different direction–even if the director might seem to take the easy way at times. But if originality isn’t enough to make you love it, Hardy himself should do the trick.